BOSTON – Michael Ferland threw a couple of big hits to show his toughness at the start of Game 2 while blasting Matt Grzelcyk with a high hit in front of the Bruins bench, and then drilling Charlie Coyle in a shift later on in the first period of that game.
But Grzelcyk showed Ferland and the rest of the Carolina Hurricanes what real toughness was when the 5-foot-9, 174-pound defenseman popped back up from the hit and scored a pair of goals in Boston’s 6-2 blowout win in Game 2 at TD Garden. Grzelcyk isn’t a big goal-scorer with six career goals in 129 regular season games, but the 26-year-old Charlestown native was the biggest gunslinger out on the ice in this massive conference final game.
Or as fellow D-man Torey Krug jokingly called him, “the Mayor of Charlestown.”
“I think we were expecting a very physical game out of [Carolina],” said Grzelcyk. “It’s something that we kind of had that experience going up against Columbus in the second round so we didn’t get fazed by that game. I think we responded really well. We knew how important it was to take advantage of home ice so I’m glad we got the win today.
“You don’t want to allow yourself to kind of sit back and relax and think too much about it but honestly it’s really special right now and it’s fun to ride this one out and go into game three and have another strong effort.”
The first one was the most important goal, however, as it happened later in the period after Grzelcyk had absorbed the massive body check from the punishing Ferland. Marcus Johansson was wheeling through the high slot when he fed Grzelcyk as the trailer, and the puck-moving defenseman somehow found a hole in Petr Mrazek when he fired the wrist shot at the net. The ability of the smallish Grzelcyk to absorb the hit and answer with the goal seemed to give a major boost to the Bruins, and then got the team off and running in the blowout Mother’s Day victory.
Many think toughness is dropping the gloves and fighting or throwing around big hits, but clapping back like Grzelcyk did with his goal is about as tough as tough gets.
“It was terrific. I think it lifts our bench when you get drilled pretty good. You know, you kind of chip it off and back to work and scores a goal, whatever it was, two shifts later, so it certainly gives us a lift. I’m not surprised,” said Bruce Cassidy. “[Grzelcyk] is a tough kid, and in this playoff season – any playoff season – you’re going to take some hits, take a number, get back out there and play the game.
“[You] keep discipline and at some point, if you get a chance to be physical against them, you take advantage of it. That’s the way it works.”
The second goal was another big one as it arrived in the second period following a pivotal sequence where Brad Marchand goaded Justin Williams into a holding penalty, and then pointed toward the penalty box while mocking the Carolina captain. Grzelcyk helped make the Hurricanes pay by scoring again on a backhanded shot from the slot after a drop pass from Charlie Coyle, and amazingly the Bruins defenseman now has as many goals (three) in 15 playoff games as he did during the entire 2018-19 regular season.
That’s the kind of thing that makes fellow small-ish D-man Torey Krug stand up and take notice of one of his favorite teammates.
“I’ve been one of Grizz’s biggest fans since he came in the league and we joke about it all the time now that we have a couple of guys under 5-foot-10 winning games in the National Hockey League and three defensemen under six foot so we’re causing havoc and doing the job,” said Krug. "It’s a lot of fun to watch him play and when he’s skating there is no one that can skate like him and break out pucks. We take a lot of pride in that so it was fun to watch he scoot around today.”
It shouldn’t be surprising that Grzelcyk has stepped up his scoring a little in the postseason as so many other Bruins have with 19 different goal-scorers on the roster during the playoffs, the most since the Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final back in 1988. But it was less about the two goals he scored on Sunday afternoon’s Game 2, and more about the way he popped back up and showed how tough he was by scoring the game’s first goal after absorbing that first massive hit to open things up in that contest.
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